Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign
Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign
A view from Claire Beale

Claire Beale: It's time for a dose of naivety at adland's top

You will notice that this week's issue of Campaign is devoted to those people hoping to get a job in advertising and the ones who have already made it through the industry's front doors and are working out where exactly they're going.

It will soon enough be all about them, though quite a few seem to think it is already. "This industry needs our rocket up its arse," one newbie told me last week, all serious self-importance. I managed not to laugh.

Give it a few years, and I’m sure their experience-fuelled rockets will be very welcomed up the industry’s rear end, but right now, there’s a generation above them whose time is here.

Magnus Djaba is one of them: 37 and the new chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi. His skipping over to the SS side of the SSF Group isn’t particularly dramatic or surprisingl; from Asda to Cadbury and now its talent, the group has become extremely slick at baton-passing.

Still, it would have been easy enough for the agency to cast around for a chief executive with a few years in the top job already under their belt, and poaching a boss from another agency has the added benefit of dealing a rival a disorientating blow. Despite depriving us of that sort of double-whammy headline, Saatchis has done well to bring through the next generation of agency management.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and WCRS have been through similar leaps in the past 12 months, though in each case there has been wise counsel above to plug any gaps in experience or wisdom. But agencies should go easy on that wise counsel. The whole point of bringing in fresh management talent is to let them loose. As Djaba said this week: "If the ad industry is going to move on to the next level, then the people running its companies have to have a slight naivety, a lack of cynicism and a hunger for what’s possible. My generation is looking forward, finding out what we can do, not congratulating ourselves on the things we’ve already done."

Yes, the ad industry has a demographic profile too skewed to youth and desperately needs to value experience (and age) much, much more than it does. But now, more than ever, Djaba might just be right. If the business needs to make a real step forward, perhaps it does need an injection of naivety at the top. If you want proof: the whole digital agency sector was built that way while traditional agencies were snoozing.

As it works out where it needs to go next, the ad industry needs a little more "what if" and "let’s try". That’s not the preserve of youth. Far from it. But remoulding the industry and building a new future need some serious fresh thinking. And that sort of fresh thinking isn’t so easy when you’ve built a long and successful career on getting us to where we
are now.ort of fresh thinking isn’t so easy when you’ve built a long and successful career on getting us to where we
are now.